The Longest Now


Wikipedia temp-blocked in Pakistan?
Friday March 31st 2006, 1:09 pm
Filed under: international

Wikipedia was reportedly temporarily blocked by three ISPs in Pakistan today.  I don’t quite understand what this court order is suporting such actions, or why they might have reversed the block so quickly (it’s unblocked now); and hope for a more detailed confirmation from someone in the know.

China’s still blocking WP.  Someone claimed that Burma is as well; is this so?  And has Iran ever blocked it?  Sadly, I don’t know the answer.  This last part should be fixed.  

Wikipedia temp-blocked in Pakistan? …



Wikicities II
Tuesday March 28th 2006, 2:39 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

The Company Formerly Known As Wikicities, the world’s largest provider of MediaWiki hosting (and employer of an increasing number of my friends), this month closed a $4M round of series A funding from Omidyar and Bessemer Ventures (whence new board member Jeremy Levine) and a few lucky individuals (including one-name stealth disco star and serial board member Joi).  Congratulations all around.

Finding times when all board members are on terra firma at the same
time may be difficult… but with modern technology, also increasingly
unnecessary.  (I look forward to a photoset from inside Wikia Force One.)

The company is now known as Wikia (sometimes
“wikia.com”), a name which you may recall fromits former life, adorning
a related search engine portal.  It continues to host the world’s drollest wiki, and will hopefully be yet another channel for MediaWiki development, so that all those fine programmers still sitting on the fence about which wiki platform to use with can make up their minds with light heart and easy conscience. 
Perhaps we need a live ticker…”MediaWiki.  Powering 3.00001542% of the world’s public web pages.”


Anyway,
Wikia has been getting better this past year.  Unlike every other online community aggregator I’ve seen to
date, they really understand the need for free licensing, the
importance of linking projects together and avoiding redundancy, and
the utility of guiding communities towards producing meaningful lasting content, not just short-term attention sinks.  (I used to direct people at times to pbwiki and
other hosts, but I have little patience for any ‘wiki’ whose default
state is not world-editable.  For crying out loud…  why should every
site need a ‘wiki password’ you must know to edit it?   I’ve stopped
counting the number of pbwikis I’ve been foiled from editing, and I’ve
stopped telling people about the site.  Sorry, David! :-/ )



Hao Wu imprisoned : HEY!
Tuesday March 28th 2006, 2:36 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Even the best and the most harmless can be trapped in China for being too curious. 

“>

Hao Wu (



Wikicities + Joi + JLevine = Wikia, Mark II
Tuesday March 28th 2006, 4:21 am
Filed under: popular demand

The Company Formerly Known As Wikicities, the world’s largest provider of MediaWiki hosting (and employer of an increasing number of my friends), this month closed a $4M round of series A funding from Omidyar and Bessemer Ventures (whence new board member Jeremy Levine) and a few lucky individuals (including one-name stealth disco star and serial board member Joi).  Congratulations all around.

Finding times when all board members are on terra firma at the same
time may be difficult… but with modern technology, also increasingly
unnecessary.  (I look forward to a photoset from inside Wikia Force One.)

The company is now known as Wikia (sometimes “wikia.com”), a name which you may recall fromits former life, adorning a related search engine portal.  It continues to host the world’s drollest wiki, and will hopefully be yet another channel for MediaWiki development, so that all those fine programmers still sitting on the fence about which wiki platform to use with can make up their minds with light heart and easy conscience.  Perhaps we need a live ticker…

“MediaWiki.  Powering 3.00001542% of the world’s public web pages.”


Anyway, Wikia has only been getting better this past year.  If you’ve had a burning idea you want to turn into a wiki, think about hosting with them.  Unlike every other online community aggregator I’ve seen to date, they really understand the need for free licensing, the importance of linking projects together and avoiding redundancy, and the utility of guiding communities towards producing meaningful lasting bodies of content, not just short-term attention sinks.  (I used to direct people at times to pbwiki and other hosts, but I have little patience for any ‘wiki’ whose default state is not world-editable.  For crying out loud…  why should every site need a ‘wiki password’ you must know to edit it?   I’ve stopped counting the number of pbwikis I’ve been foiled from editing, and I’ve stopped telling people about the site.  Sorry, David! :-/ )

Wikicities + Joi + JLevine = Wikia, Mark II …



“Fatally Flawed” — Internal Britannica Review Tackles Nature Methods
Thursday March 23rd 2006, 3:22 pm
Filed under: metrics

Below is a letter that Encyclopedia Britannica sent out today to some of its customers, in response to the December Nature article comparing the accuracy of articles in Wikipedia and Britannica.  A more detailed review of the Nature study, including responses to each alleged error and omission, is linked from the front page of www.eb.com; you can also see an HTML version of the review here (thanks to Ben Yates).

In one of its recent issues, the science journal Nature published an article
that claimed to compare the accuracy of the online Encyclopædia Britannica
with Wikipedia, the Internet database that allows anyone, regardless of
knowledge or qualifications, to write and edit articles on any subject.
Wikipedia had recently received attention for its alleged inaccuracies, but
Nature’s article claimed that Britannica’s science coverage was only
slightly more accurate than Wikipedia’s.

Arriving amid the revelations of vandalism and errors in Wikipedia, such a
finding was, not surprisingly, big news. Perhaps you even saw the story
yourself. It’s been reported around the world.

Those reports were wrong, however, because Nature’s research was invalid. As
our editors and scholarly advisers have discovered by reviewing the research
in depth, almost everything about the Nature’s investigation was wrong and
misleading. Dozens of inaccuracies attributed to the Britannica were not
inaccuracies at all, and a number of the articles Nature examined were not
even in the Encyclopædia Britannica. The study was so poorly carried out and
its findings so error-laden that it was completely without merit.

Since educators and librarians have been among Britannica’s closest
colleagues for many years, I would like to address you personally with an
explanation of our findings and tell you the truth about the Nature study.

Almost everything Nature did showed carelessness and indifference to basic
research standards. Their numerous errors and spurious procedures included
the following:

*       Rearranging, reediting, and excerpting Britannica articles. Several
of the “articles” Nature sent its outside reviewers were only sections of,
or excerpts from Britannica entries. Some were cut and pasted together from
more than one Britannica article. As a result, Britannica’s coverage of
certain subjects was represented in the study by texts that our editors
never created, approved or even saw.
*       Mistakenly identifying inaccuracies. The journal claimed to have
found dozens of inaccuracies in Britannica that didn’t exist.
*       Reviewing the wrong texts. They reviewed a number of texts that were
not even in the encyclopedia.
*       Failing to check facts. Nature falsely attributed inaccuracies to
Britannica based on statements from its reviewers that were themselves
inaccurate and which Nature’s editors failed to verify.
*       Misrepresenting its findings. Even according to Nature’s own
figures, (which grossly exaggerated the number of inaccuracies in
Britannica) Wikipedia had a third more inaccuracies than Britannica. Yet the
headline of the journal’s report concealed this fact and implied something
very different.

Britannica also made repeated attempts to obtain from Nature the original
data on which the study’s conclusions were based. We invited Nature’s
editors and management to meet with us to discuss our analysis, but they
declined.

The Nature study was thoroughly wrong and represented an unfair affront to
Britannica’s reputation.

Britannica practices the kind of sound scholarship and rigorous editorial
work that few organizations even attempt. This is vital in the age of the
Internet, when there is so much inappropriate material available. Today,
having sources like Britannica is more important than ever, with content
that is reliable, tailored to the age of the user, correlated to curriculum,
and safe for everyone.

Whatever may have prompted Nature to do such careless and sloppy research,
it’s now time for them to uphold their commitment to good science and
retract the study immediately. We have urged them strongly to do so.

Nature responded with a polite but firm declination.



Welcome to Harvard!
Tuesday March 21st 2006, 4:03 pm
Filed under: indescribable

A hearty welcome to new econ grad students, from two of its luminaries.  Soon you, too, can speak this way.

Welcome to Harvard! …



Pitasticity
Tuesday March 21st 2006, 2:42 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

(from the Pi Cat) : Happy
Pi
Week, everyone!



How to improve the universe, one RSS at a time
Tuesday March 14th 2006, 7:21 pm
Filed under: indescribable

Yeah, well, I like the category indescribable for this cartoon because there just isn’t much else to say about it.

How to improve the universe, one RSS at a time …



anarchordia
Sunday March 12th 2006, 10:17 am
Filed under: international

I’ve been running into a bumper crop of Marxists recently.  So when I saw an ‘encyclopedia’ page about how society works leading off a section with “It should be clear that the dominant institution of our society is capitalism“, even though the page as a whole is clearly young and hastily written, I felt a familiar rant coming on.

First of all, society doesn’t have “a
dominant institution.  And institutions of family, of civil society and
the existence of government, are vastly more pervasive and dominant
than the various religious, economic, and legal institutions.

Second, I hate to see fundamental innovations get locked into
early implementations. “Capitalism” isn’t a single institution. 
Neither the set of general philosophies that have used that title, nor
the various implementations, are ideal or even consistent over time. 
(That’s true of many high-profile one-word abstractions.)  The writer
above goes on to say ‘capitalism rewards maximizing short-term profit’
— no, it doesn’t.  The pursuit and reward of short-term profits is one
of those other institutions built into the fabric of modern society.

Rant over, man, rant over.  Now
for balance I should indulge a rant about the inadequacy of ‘ideal’
markets, and the complacency of those who feel they are the only
framework needed to scale discussions, comparisons, and decision making
from two neighbors inconversation to a networked billion-person
planet…



Reembering Push Singh
Thursday March 09th 2006, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

I spent today thinking about Push Singh, someone I have known for four years.  Every time we have met, I have come away struck by his thoughtfulness, his good nature, his giving smile, and the pleasure of speaking with him. He died last week; today there was a memorial in his honor at MIT.  I don’t usually cry at funerals — death is the most storied event in life, not necessarily a sad one — but found myself tearing up today as I hung outside the MIT chapel.

My thoughts are still with him, and with his family.  I wanted to walk up to them as they stood by the crosswalk waiting for the lights to turn; but I did not.

Reembering Push Singh …



WikiWednesday Boston report: better late than sober
Thursday March 09th 2006, 10:22 pm
Filed under: popular demand

The first Boston Wiki Wednesday was a success, though it got started at
11pm rather than 6. Of the 5 people who had RSVP’ed, some had other
plans in the early evening, so we rescheduled…  Ivan and I
grabbed dinner at Nine Tastes
instead.  We were soon joined by Dustin, Erik, and her
Starkness.  They knew the beautiful people sitting next to us,
naturally. We covered speed reading and salsa preferences.

Later that night, we invited the Harvard Free Culture club to come join us at John Harvard’s; and talked about the Penn State wiki, wysiwyg dominance
of the editing world, why all the wiki software companies are on the
wrong coast, rewriting MediaWiki in Python, and the meaning of the
phrase “structured multilingual API”.  A moderate quantity of beer
and coke was consumed, theoretically putting SocialText out twenty-one
bucks.

Next Wednesday will be Wiki as well, when David Weinberger sounds off about trust, anonymity, and wiki editorial practices, at 6pm at Berkman.  Come join us.



Wiki Wednesday tomorrow : Grafton Street, 6pm
Tuesday March 07th 2006, 7:06 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Tomorrow I will be hosting the first Boston Wiki Wednesday at the Grafton Street pub & grille at 6pm.  These gatherings will generally take place the first Wednesday of each month; thanks to Socialtext for the idea and for the first round of drinks 🙂 

(Socialtext is also the drive behind the best implementation of WYSIWYG wiki editing I’ve seen to date, free or not; try it out to see what I mean.  Now if only we could get something similar for in-place image editing…)

This is not a replacement for our bimonthly Wikipedia meetings; we’ll talk more about projects and internships and new wiki ventures.  Come out and say hi, or bring ideas to share.  RSVP on-wiki.

Wiki Wednesday tomorrow : Grafton Street, 6pm …



1 Million What??
Saturday March 04th 2006, 10:52 am
Filed under: metrics

The original English Wikipedia turns 1 million this week.  Kudos to KG, who won the millionth-article pool… the two-millionth pool is now closed, but you can still place (gentleman’s) bets on when the eleventy-billionth article will be written.  (Full disclosure: My money’s on 2021.)

1 Million What?? …



New Hitwise Data (generated for WP)
Thursday March 02nd 2006, 10:12 pm
Filed under: metrics

New traffic data from Hitwise (.doc)
suggests that by their standards, Wikipedia is also in the top 20 orgs
with popular websites; though some, such as Yahoo, MSN, Google and
Myspace, have more than one site ahead of it.  Thanks to Hitwise  for sharing their results for the millionth article press release.

I hope that some of these leisure sites will start to integrate more
useful content with their portals, and not remain paeans to the id; it
is heartwarming to see useful content providers (such as pure search
engines, and news portals) near the tops of the list. 

Wikipedia fields 11% of education-related traffic, and 0.17%
of all traffic they measured, with Answers.com getting 1/3 of
that.  I asked for details on their methodology and sample size;
they claim 25 million users, but I don’t know their distribution,
geographically or otherwise.  They also show a pretty flat age
distribution from 18 through 44, and an even split along gender lines.




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